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Finding the ghosts of Hawaii: Mysteries in paradise

April 24, 2022
4 min read
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Hawaii conjures up images of beaches, surfing and picture perfect ocean views. But ghosts?

Even in paradise, those beyond the grave are among the living if you know where to look. And for those who want to know more, there is a tour experience that looks deeper into Hawaii's ghost stories.

"It's a cultural experience, things that they never knew about historical things that they were not aware of, that they can't find in any tour, magazine or pamphlet," said master storyteller Lopaka Kapanui of Mysteries of Hawaii, a company that offers several walking tours to Hawaii's most haunted places.

"That's the advantage of being a cultural practitioner and a native of a place where you know a lot of the information that is not written down. Because we Hawaiians had a spoken language, everything was transmitted," he added.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

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Experience vs Tour

While they are labeled as "tours," Kapanui said the more accurate descriptor for the walking tours he offers through Mysteries of Hawaii are "experiences."

"I'm a storyteller, not a tour guide, so I'm not working for tips. The reason why it's an experience is because it becomes about the people who show up and much less about myself. And so according to people's capacity as far as spiritual reception or perception, depends upon how the thing goes. Sensitive people will experience things," he said.

Kapanui took over the experience from his former boss Glen Grant, who started a Honoulu ghost tour in the 1970s. Kapanui said it's been quite a journey since he took over the business.

"It was very strict about getting everything straight facts," he said. "I had to listen and remember a tour that was from 7 p.m. in the evening to 2 a.m. in the morning. There are seven stops and every stop had two hours of stories, which I had to memorize," he said. "And my mother trained me in the same way, which sort of freaked me out when I first met my boss. But you know, now I realize it was meant to be."

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It's the reason why Kapanui said his tour experiences are different, because they are drawn from Hawaiian oral traditions.

Mysteries of old Honolulu

During a Saturday in early March, I took the monthly "Ghosts of Old Honolulu Walking Tour." This 90-minute experience started in downtown Honolulu. My group was small but very engaged as Kapanui laid out some ground rules before we followed the paths once walked by royalty.

Kapanui emphasized they do not use scare tactics: "There is no one hiding in the bushes to frighten you," he said. "We don’t pretend to see things that are not there."

From the state library building where we started, the group walked over to the Iolani Palace where we heard stories about sightings of Queen Lili‘uokalani from an upstairs bedroom where she was once imprisoned for months after the overthrow of the Hawaiian government.

From there, we walked across the street to see the Kamehameha Statue, Banyan trees, the courthouse and the post office, also known as the King David Kalakaua building, which all have historical backstories and are supposedly filled with ghostly appearances.

The post office, for example, is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a postal worker named Benedict Westkaemper. At several points during the experience, we were were asked to take pictures of each other in front of the Banyan trees and in the post office, and some of the pictures later revealed something or someone in the shadows.

Kapanui also asked us to record ourselves near the Banyan trees and the courthouse where major events have taken place and ghostly sightings continue to haunt the grounds. "That's why I tell people that this is really about you and how your energy, your mentality, and the things you bring with you right now," said Kapanui.

Related: Traveling to Hawaii just got a whole lot easier; TPG was among the first to try it out

Bottom Line

Hawaii is more than just beaches, surfing and good food. It is home to realms of spirits whether you know it or not. You can discover more if you dare to explore further.

Featured image by (Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees